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Leg Training – Love it or Hate it

Leg Training – Love it or Hate it

By Shaun Campbell

Women love it and men hate it – I am talking about training legs; not Oprah.  Walk into any gym and you will see a common trend – men avoiding training legs and women doing endless ‘inner and outer’ thigh exercises seeking thin, toned legs.  There are exceptions to this but over the years this is definitely a trend I’ve noticed. Mind you it is good for me, as I never have to wait for the squat rack or leg press. Nevertheless, I think we should buck this wave of avoidance and today I am going to give you the tools to make that change.

Let me be blunt: Guys you need to train your legs.  Aren’t you tired of wearing track pants to the gym or making excuses about how your legs won’t grow?  Not only will training the legs build a more symmetrical physique that you will be proud of, it will also help promote overall muscle growth throughout the entire body.  That’s right, more muscle throughout your entire body.  Your legs contain large muscles and when stimulated release huge amounts of testosterone — the primary anabolic hormone responsible for muscle growth — throughout the body. So not only will your legs reap the benefits but so will your upper body. How can you ignore that? 

And ladies I am not letting you off the hook.  Most of you are after leaner more toned legs doing countless thigh exercises without proper direction.  I am not going to say you are wasting your time but I will say that I can help you get the results you are after.  Get prepared to step out of your comfort zone – learn to squat and how to use the leg press.  You will be glad you did when you see the results.    

Training legs is hard work but well worth it.  Having toned muscular legs is sexy on both men and women.  Make this the year you wear shorts with pride.  

Whether your goal is to tone your legs or add extra muscle the same exercises apply. The big difference is your routine – exercise order, sets, reps, and rest times.  Not only am I going to give you a few workouts to meet your goal, I am going to explain how to perform the exercises correctly and effectively.

General Guidelines:
Always warm-up Warm-up the muscles prior to working out with a few light sets of the movement you will be performing. This will help in avoiding injuries by preparing the muscle for the work that will be placed upon it.
Make sure to breathe Exhale on the exertion phase of the movement.  With quadriceps exercises exhale when you are pushing the resistance away from your body, coming up from a squat or lunge, or extending your leg, and inhale as you are returning, or lowering, the resistance to the starting point.  With hamstring exercises exhale when you are curling the leg and inhale as you are returning the weight to the starting point.
Set A number of successive repetitions performed without resting.
Repetitions or Reps The amount of times you complete a movement or exercise.
Repetition Speed Performing the movement in a slow and controlled fashion for safety and effectiveness.  I would suggest that the lifting movement (exertion phase) be 1-2 seconds and the lowering movement (return to start) be 3-4 seconds.

Beginner Workout (new to weight training)

Quadriceps
Dumbbell Squats  2-3 x 12-15  (i.e. 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions)
Leg Extensions   2-3 x 12-15
Hamstrings
Seated Leg Curls  or Ball Hamstring Curls   2-3 x 12-15

Notes: Make sure to focus on the correct technique and not the amount of weight you are using until you feel comfortable with the movements. If Dumbbell Squats are difficult you can do the exercise without the dumbbells. Complete this workout 1 or 2 times a week with at least 48-72 hours between workouts. Rest approximately 1 minute between sets.  Entire workout should take around 20 minutes.

Intermediate Workout (weight training for about a year)

Quadriceps
Dumbbell Squats or Barbell Squats  3 x 15,12,10 (pyramid*)
Dumbbell Lunges                                      3 x 10-12 each leg
Leg Extensions                                            3 x 12-15
Hamstrings
Lying Leg Curls or Seated Leg Curls  4 x 15,12,10,8 (pyramid*)

Notes: For safety make sure to have a spotter on the barbell squats.  Especially when taking the set to failure.  A spotter is used to assist you in getting the weight up if needed. Complete this workout 1 or 2 times a week with at least 48-72 hours between workouts. Rest approximately 1-2 minutes between sets.  Entire workout should take around 30-45 minutes 

Advanced Workout (weight training over a year and want to add some mass)

Quadriceps
Leg Press                             4 x 15,12,10,8 (pyramid*)
Barbell Squats                   3 x 15,12,10   (pyramid*)
Single Leg Extensions    3 x 12-15 each leg
Barbell Lunges                  3 x 10-12 each leg
Hamstrings
Barbell Stiff Legged Deadlift    3 x 12-15
Lying Leg Curls                            3 x 10-12

Notes: For safety make sure to have a spotter on the barbell squats.  Especially when taking the set to failure.  A spotter is used to assist you in getting the weight up if needed. Complete this workout once a week. Rest approximately 2 minutes between sets. Rest up to 3 minutes between intense leg press and squat sets. Entire workout should take around 1 hour to 1.5 hours.

*With the Pyramid system you add weight, or resistance, to the next set.  Begin with the lightest weight and work up to the heaviest.

Bonus Workout! Here is a great toning and conditioning workout for those ready for the challenge.  This isn’t for the beginner, be prepared to work. 

Toning and Conditioning Workout (Intermediate to Advanced Level Workout)

Barbell Lunges or Dumbbell Lunges 4 x 12-15 each leg
Dumbbell Squats                                        4 x 15-20
Superset: Leg Extensions / Lying Leg Curls  4 x 12-15
Superset: Seated Hip Adduction / Seated Hip Abduction 4 x 15-20

Notes: Superset means performing one exercise followed immediately by the next exercise without taking a rest. You can rest 1 minute after the superset before completing the next one. Complete this workout 1 or 2 times a week with at least 48-72 hours between workouts. Rest approximately 1 minute between sets and supersets. Shorter rest times, higher repetitions, and supersets will help in toning the legs and overall conditioning. Entire workout should take around 45 minutes. 

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